Rupert Murdoch's Star India has entered into a deal with Harish Thawani's Nimbus Sports to distribute its forthcoming sports channels branded as NEO Sports in India.
Star India has the exclusive rights for the two upcoming channels till 2010 and would also distribute any future sports channels from the NEO Sports stable.
Star already has two sports channels, ESPN and Star Sports, beaming to India in a joint venture with ESPN.
The agreement between Star Group and ESPN to launch ESPN Star Sports in the region, has a clause, which prevents either party from undertaking any plans which will be a competition to its joint properties in the region. This comes in the way of Star acquiring stake in the new broadcasting venture.
Senior Star executives said that the deal with Neo Sports will not come in the way of this agreement, as the deal with Nimbus is not an equity deal.
The first of the Nimbus channels, the cricket-centric NEO Sports, would be launched in the last quarter of 2006, followed by the launch of sports entertainment NEO Sports Plus at the end of the year.
Sameer Nair, chief executive officer, Star Entertainment, India said "NEO's stable of sports channels will complement our existing bouquets, offering more breadth and depth to the viewer."
Nimbus will sell the advertisement spots while the distribution revenue would be shared between the partners. The financial arrangement between the parties wasn't disclosed.
"While this will add a sports channel to the Star bouquet, Nimbus will benefit from the massive distribution network that Star commands. We already distribute Disney and Hungama and this will add to our third party distribution," explained a Star Spokesperson.
Currently, ESPN Star Sports distributes its bouquet on its own while ZEE Sports and Ten Sports is in the ZEE bouquet. Cricket content on Set Max is distributed through Sony.
Chairman of Nimbus, Harish Thawani said, in a release: "We are deeply impressed by its strategy for NEO Sports' comprehensive distribution needs. It was the strong track record of executing on its strategic plans that persuaded us to appoint Star." He could not be reached for further comments.
NEO Sports, the release said, has nearly 200 days of cricket every year lined up, including all BCCI events and between 3-4 international series every year.
Over the past 12 months, Nimbus Communications Ltd has received over $75 million in funding from 3i and Deutsche Bank -- a sum that can fully fund its growth plans for now, said the release.
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